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Teach children how to “live math” and it won’t be boring for them

We get it. Math can be dry. And complicated. And who really enjoys helping their child do long division?

And yet, if you really think about it, math is nothing else but problem solving. And we humans simply love to solve problems!

Math is real life. It is way more than rote memorization of the multiplication table. It is how we make sense of the orbits of electrons and planets or the behavior of humans in social networks. And it is how we manage our money.

That said, repetition IS essential to mastering math. So how do we get children to do math often without leading to boredom?

The answer is to incorporate it into their everyday experiences. Check out these seven fun ways to learn and do math:

  1. Play Math. What better way to sneak in math learning than through engaging (and sometimes addictive!) toys and games? Here’s a list of 15 awesome math toys and games. Not on that list, but tested — and highly recommended — by STEM Reads, are the Math Dice Jr. game from our friends at ThinkFun and the Mobi Numerical Tile Game from our friends at Mobi Games Inc.
  2. Code math. If your child is already into coding (and if they are, congratulations! They will rule the Earth), then they can easily get into the habit of writing computer programs to solve math problems — this happens to be a critical skill for most STEM careers. <code_by_math/> is a fun website to learn code and math simultaneously. This article from the coding platform Tynker describes how coding makes math more fun. Our friends at Scratch Foundation also feature math coding projects on their platform.
  3. Read math. There’s a strange connection between math and early literacy. This article from Scholastic states that “Children develop literacy skills as they think about what words mean and decide which words appropriately describe certain objects and situations. Mathematics is an ideal context in which to discuss exactly what words mean.” When considering math books to read, we recommend choosing from the following three categories: biographies of famous mathematicians; fictional story books that explore math concepts; and math activity books that include kid-friendly exercises and puzzles.
  4. See Math. A few months ago, Hollywood made math cool again with the movie Hidden Figures. Here’s a thorough parent-friendly review from Common Sense Media, which also publishes this list of TV shows and movies appropriate for children under age 10.
  5. Do Math (Online). For interactive math fun on an electronic device, especially on the go, your child can whip out their smartphone or tablet (or yours) and dive into these 12 engaging math apps for kids. For more computer-friendly activities, see this list of interactive math videos from Kids.gov. And for hard-core online math learning, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy or IXL.
  6. Celebrate Math (and Mathematicians). April is officially Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month (#MathAware #MathStatMonth). This year, the organizers are focusing on celebrating the diversity of math and statistics researchers and students who are “contributing so much to furthering discoveries, solving problems, and finding beauty in our world.” You’ll find such mathematicians and much much more at the National Math Festival on 22 April in Washington, DC. If you can’t make it to this event, or to the National Museum of Mathematics (aka MoMath) in New York City, then find a local or regional science center and check out their next math-based exhibit.
  7. Ask a mathematician. Thanks to social media, you can reach out directly to scientists and mathematicians who would likely be eager to answer your child’s questions about what they do and why they love math (NOT to do your child’s homework!). Among our favorite mathematicians on social media are Steven Strogatz (a prolific author and all-around public communicator), Laura Taalman (aka “mathgrrl;” Dr. Taalman is really into 3D printing), and John Urschel (aka “the mathlete;” when he’s not studying math at MIT, he plays football for the Baltimore Ravens!)

What other ways to make math fun would you add to this mix?

Our Math Mania box (available for a limited time) contains some of the math products mentioned above.

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